LETTER — What about the easements?

Published 6:00 am Friday, February 19, 2021

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To the Editor:

Dominion is giving $3.5 million to Buckingham County. That’s great, but they are holding easements through more than 250 properties obtained for a project that was deemed to be “in the public interest.”

From the first contact with the company, landowners were told that if we didn’t cooperate they’d take the land via eminent domain. Many landowners felt harassed by land agents, agreed to sign so they’d go away and expected the company to eventually win.

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Those who fought spent untold and uncompensated hours and dollars for a fight we didn’t seek. We found that nothing in the process allowed us to get our concerns addressed. Eminent domain results in dollar payment for lost value, not requirements that the company respect the businesses and homes with which it interferes.

Now that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline has been canceled, it seems unfair for the company to keep the easements. Their potential use of our property hangs over all landowners and more often than not the easement cuts through the middle of property.

Project cancellation is unusual, so there are no federal requirements for returning easements to landowners. The company claims most of the easements were given voluntarily. Most were under threat or court order.

None of the $3.5 million given Buckingham County will make the landowners, forced to accept an easement that permanently limits our use of our property, whole. Dominion says it does not intend to return the easements, but doing that would address the real and continuing losses of the citizens who did not seek this fight. It would cost a lot less than $3.5 million. Dominion could give the balance to others.

End the years of disruption landowners have endured. Return our ability to control what happens on our property. We’ll never recoup what we lost in time, money and relationships for more than six years, but the worry that the company will someday return can be removed. It’s the right thing to do.

Irene Ellis Leech